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The Religious Worker Visa


The R visa category permits individuals engaged in a broad range of religious occupations to enter the U.S. to perform services related to their religious calling or vocation. To qualify for an R-1 visa, the foreign national, for two years immediately preceding the application, must have been a member of a religious denomination having a bona fide, nonprofit religious organization in the United States.

Elements of R-1 Visa

  • The religious denomination which seeks to employ the foreign national must have a bona fide, nonprofit organization status in the U.S. This may include:
    • A non-profit religious organization in the United States;
    • A religious organization that is authorized by a group tax exemption holder to use its group tax exemption; or
    • A non-profit religious organization which is affiliated with a religious denomination in the United States.
  • Persons seeking R-1 status must be engaged in qualifying religious vocations or occupations.
    • Religious Occupation: An activity that relates to a traditional religious function (e.g.) liturgical workers, religious instructors, cantors, catechists, workers in religious hospitals or religious healthcare facilities, missionaries, religious translators, and religious broadcasters;
    • o Religious Vocation: "A calling to religious life" evidenced by the demonstration of commitment practiced in the religious denomination, such as the taking of vows (e.g.) pastors, ministers, priests, nuns, monks, and religious brothers and sisters

The R visa petition is generally approved for an entry period of five years (in two thirty-month increments). An R-1 religious worker's spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 may be eligible for R-2 classification. An R-2 dependent is not authorized to accept employment based on this visa classification.

Immigration Law Associates, PC is well versed and experienced in preparing R visa applications of behalf of religious institutions seeking to bring essential religious workers to the U.S. To schedule an in-depth consultation with one of our experienced attorneys, please call 847-763-8500.